Ashley Johnson Navigates Grief and Guilt as Ellie

First appeared on film and television screens as a child actor in the action film by Jean-Claude Van Damme Lion heart and family comedy Increasing pain, Ashley Johnson continues to voice famous cartoon characters Teen Titans Go! and Ben 10, the roles she has reprized in video games are based on these attributes. And over a decade later, she’s unleashed her talents to hit motion-captured Triple-A titles. The actress said that playing games is really her favorite form of entertainment. Johnson, 36, who made headlines in 2013 voicing Ellie in the post-apocalyptic survival action game Naughty Dog, said: “It’s the last thing because you feel like you’re part of the story. . Our last.

Johnson will return to this role after seven years with a sequel directed by Neil Druckman The Last of Us Part II, released by Sony on June 19. In the original game, Ellie is a kid navigating a dangerous wasteland of humans infected with a parasitic fungus that turns them into bloodthirsty zombies. She is accompanied on her journey by Joel (Troy Baker), a smuggler who lost his own daughter years earlier.

In Part II, things are a lot worse. Not only has the world become more empty and desolate than before – with many wandering enemies, traps, and letters involving long-dead characters – but Ellie’s journey is even more personal. more urgent and urgent. Now 19, she’s experienced loss, grappling with confusing romantic feelings, biting her tongue when jealousy hits, and unleashing everything in her power – her arsenal and The “strength” of fierce determination – to save her people. deeply cared for.

“We’re seeing Ellie in a much darker place,” Johnson explained, adding that she had some initial anxiety about revisiting the role. In the end, she’s excited to breathe life into her character again. Johnson was on the phone with CHEAP before the game’s release to talk about her chemistry with voice actor Shannon Woodward (Dina), how she connects in emotional scenes, and her “freedom” in video game acting. death.

How does it feel to return to the character of Ellie after a few years and how has your opinion of her evolved over time?

I love this character so much, and I’ve been able to play her for 10 years now. I’m excited to go into the second game knowing that we’ll be exploring more of Ellie and seeing a different side of her – her maturity and her flaws. Apparently, we’re seeing Ellie in a much darker place. After Neil sat down and told me the story of the second game, I was nervous but also excited to go on this journey and tell this story, because I thought it was a story. very important to tell.

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Ellie is a sadistic villain intent on revenge. How do you get there emotionally to portray the character with both anger and empathy?

All we can do as actors is try to find the kernel of truth somewhere that we’ve been through that we can relate to. And the rest of it – when you can put yourself in that space, you trust the dialogue, the setting and the director, and then it’s just a playtime from there. There’s been a lot of research that Neil and I have done on the things we talked about – for me, as an anxiety solver, but also playing a character with PTSD, and studying what’s going on. there.

At the beginning of this game, Ellie struggled with a lot of things. If anyone has played the first game, we know that at the end of the entire journey that Ellie and Joel have gone, she is trying to find meaning and purpose with her immunity. On top of that, she lied to someone she really cared about. So when we see her, she grows older and comes to terms with the guilt of the survivor, and also confronts the person with whom she traveled on this journey, who was not honest with her. . [She is] still trying to find meaning in her life and starting a completely different journey, dealing with grief, hurt, anger, and guilt. Those things can make you do some very bad things. I know people will have a hard time seeing Ellie in this really dark place, but I like that Neil wanted to do that with the character.

Can you recall a scene or scene that exhausted you emotionally and physically in the same way that you experienced as an actor?

Definitely as a whole. We shot it for five to six years, and definitely during the filming of this game, I got emotional in some places that I never had to go as an actor. It was a rewarding experience even though it was exhausting. As an actor, sometimes you don’t know how far you can get with something until you do, and it was a learning experience for me. I know for me, because of certain experiences I’ve had in my life, anger is a very accessible emotion. I don’t know what that says about me.

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Of course, there are some beautifully engaging moments in this game, but most of it deals with very heavy themes. It’s hard to live in it for weeks at a time or while you’re shooting. But I think we’re all very excited to be telling this story and being in this world with these characters, and being a group again, because it’s been such a collaborative and creative experience. that we all have together. We’ve put it all there and it’s okay with maybe failing and trying again. It’s a lot of emotion, but we’ve all stepped to the metal, ready to get there.

What percentage of yourself do you feel Ellie has when you’ve been playing her for so long? Are the lines blurred?

Sure. When I first auditioned for the part and looked at her character description – and as we started filming – I realized the character wasn’t all that different from me. Especially in this game, we see her quiet side and she’s a bit introverted. Ellie and I are extremely similar, and are the closest to any character I’ve ever played. Hopefully with Ellie’s decisions I can make some other decisions [laughs]. But who knows? I wasn’t in that extreme situation. I feel really proud and lucky to have played this character for as long as possible, because I think it’s great that they put a character like this in the lead role in the Triple A game.

Ellie’s interactions with Dina and the relationship there are key to this game’s emotional thread. Do chemistry readings exist in video games? How did you work with Shannon Woodward to realistically portray that relationship?

I am a huge fan of Shannon Woodward. We actually had a reading on chemistry. There was an audition process they went through and when they narrowed it down, I mean four different actors for Dina, I read with them all. It was all very amazing, and it was fun at the time to see different actors take on a role.

When Shannon arrived, we had a different chemistry, and immediately had a close friendship there, like we’ve known each other for a long time. During the filming of this game, we became such good friends. We text each other all the time. Shooting scenes with her and working with an actor like her, who is so impromptu and so unpredictable, is fun because it forces you to listen. Neil gave us space to play, and we had a good time. We’re both very excited to play characters in this relationship where we both care a lot about each other.

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What drew you to the gaming space as an actor and how is it different from movies/TV?

The reason I joined the game is that I am a gamer myself. I talked to my agent about maybe getting into video games if that’s even a possibility, because I love them so much and am curious about it. Working in motion capture, your possibilities are endless. You can shoot so much more in a day, it’s like theater. All information is taken in a single field shot. It’s not like you make different settings [or] change your camera angle. With that, there’s a lot more freedom.

For me, my favorite form of entertainment is video games because it is very immersive. Of course I love TV and movies, but for me video games are the best because you feel like you are part of the story. Being able to shoot with a dash cam and wear a motion capture suit is a really weird adjustment, but it really forces you to tap into the imagination you had as a kid. It feels like you’re accessing more than that.

So you are a longtime gamer?

Pretty much, yes. I have siblings and both love video games. I think it’s just passed on by me. I love them. I feel like over the last few years I’ve fallen behind, but because of the pandemic we’re having, I’ve been able to pick up some games that I haven’t been able to play in the last few years. That is my consolation.

The edited interview is long and clear.

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